SA firm raises M15b for Polihali Dam

KANANELO BOLOETSE

MASERU – South Africa’s Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA) has raised M15.45 billion from the capital markets to continue construction of the Polihali Dam in Mokhotlong, South Africa’s Minister for Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, Lindiwe Sisulu, said on Tuesday this week. Sisulu was delivering an address on the occasion of the Debate on the Water and Sanitation Budget Vote (41) in the National Assembly.

She told parliament that after obtaining the concurrence of the Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni, for the guarantee agreements, she gave consent for the TCTA to conclude loan agreements with and approved the issuance of government guarantees to the respective lenders.

“This allowed the TCTA to raise R15.45 billion in the capital markets from investors to continue construction of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) in relation to the Vaal River System,” she said. “So, we have the resources, we have the guarantees and now we can assure you that we will be hard at work to provide water security,” she added.

TCTA is a state-owned entity charged with financing and implementing bulk raw water infrastructure projects.  It assists the government in its pursuit of water security for South Africa and in realising its constitutional obligation of ensuring universal access to this essential resource for all citizens.

Sisulu also told the National Assembly: “I am pleased to announce that the TCTA, which received an unqualified audit opinion, has already amassed a R68 billion pipeline of water resources projects, that will start delivering water to South Africans before the end of the decade.

These water resource projects, she said, included Phase II of the LHWP – a multi-dam water project developed which is a partnership between the governments of Lesotho and South Africa, and signed into life in 1986. Through LHWP, Lesotho transfers water from its highlands to the Gauteng industrial hub of South Africa, via the Vaal River System.

TCTA is responsible for the implementation, operation and maintenance of the components of the project in South Africa. It is also responsible for raising the funding for the water transfer component of LHWP Phase II. Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA), on the other hand, manages that part of the project that falls within Lesotho’s borders.

As the project implementing authority, LHDA is responsible for the implementation, operation and maintenance of the components of the project in Lesotho. It is also responsible for the social, environmental and economic developments of the project such as resettlement, compensation, the supply of water to resettled villages, irrigation, fish hatcheries and tourism.

The activities of TCTA and LHDA are monitored by the Lesotho Highlands Water Commission (LHWC), a bi-national body representing the governments of Lesotho and South Africa, against milestones and performance indicators agreed with the relevant boards.

In the case of the TCTA, this is only for activities related to the LHWP. LHWC is responsible and accountable for the whole project, acts on behalf of and advises the governments of Lesotho and South Africa and is the channel of all government inputs relating to the project. The official ground-breaking function for the LHWP Phase II took place in November 2020, and was attended by Sisulu and the then Lesotho’s Minister of Water Samonyane Ntsekele.

Phase II entails the construction of the Polihali Dam; a transfer tunnel from Polihali Dam to Katse reservoir; as well as advance infrastructure, environmental and social development programs in Lesotho.

When complete, it will increase the current supply rate of 780-million cubic metres a year incrementally to more than 1.270 million cubic metres a year. Phase I, already completed in 2003 and inaugurated in 2004, was split into Phases 1A and 1B – construction of Katse dam and Mohale dam respectively. Phase 1A consisting mainly of the construction of the Katse Dam on the Malibamatšo River was completed in 1998. A 45km transfer tunnel was built from the Katse Dam to the ’Muela Reservoir.

The ’Muela Reservoir is considered to be the tail pond, which supplies hydro-electric power for Lesotho. Stemming from the ’Muela Reservoir is a 37km delivery tunnel to the outfall at the Ash River in the Free State from where water flows to the Vaal Dam. Phase 1B was completed in 2002. It consisted mainly of the construction of the Mohale Dam, a large rockfill dam, located on the Senqunyane River and a 32km transfer tunnel between the Mohale Dam and the Katse Dam.

It also consisted of the construction of the Matsoku Diversion Weir and a 5.7km tunnel from the Matsoku Diversion Weir to the Katse Dam. The system is interconnected in such a way that water may be transferred in either direction for storage in Mohale dam or ultimate transfer to South Africa through the Katse reservoir. Katse Dam is the transfer reservoir for the whole LHWP.

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